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Ibori: Lawyer asks London court to quash conviction

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Mr Gohil

Bhadresh Gohil yesterday filed fresh appeal papers in the UK Court of Appeal seeking to quash his convictions in both the James Ibori and the VMobile cases. 

James Ibori, a former governor of one of Nigeria’s oil-producing states, was jailed in 2012 after he pleaded guilty in a UK court to 10 counts of money-laundering and conspiracy to defraud.

British police accuse him of stealing $250m (£160m) over eight years. He received a 13-year jail sentence.

Ibori, once seen as one of Nigeria’s wealthiest and most influential politicians, was arrested in 2010 in Dubai and then extradited to London.

Bhadresh Gohil pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering in 2012 in connection with the Ibori case and was jailed. 

But in January 2016, Gohil, a lawyer who represented James Ibori was cleared of another charge at Southwark crown court after the CPS withdrew a charge of perverting the course of justice.

Gohil had been accused of leaking fabricated documents to media organisations and MPs on the home affairs select committee. The documents claimed a police officer involved in the Ibori inquiry had received corrupt payments from RISC Management, a private detective agency that worked for Ibori.

The withdrawal and the charge of corruption put the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) under pressure over an alleged cover-up that could jeopardise the high-profile conviction of the billionaire Nigerian politician.

Ibori

Counsel for Gohil, Stephen Kamlish QC sets out in detail the two primary bases of this first phase of the Appeal. The grounds are that: –

•       Police corruption existed at the heart of the Ibori/Gohil and linked prosecutions; 

•       The British Prosecutors – Sasha Wass QC and her junior Esther Shutzer-Weissman deliberately misled the Court of Appeal at the last hearing at which Gohil sought to overturn the convictions. 

The Appeal also sets out the staggering and ensuing cover-up engineered by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Metropolitan Police (MPS) and Sasha Wass QC by deliberately suppressing vital evidence from the various defence teams. 

Bhadresh Gohil despite pleading guilty has maintained his innocence now for over 7 years.

He claims that there existed a corrupt relationship at the heart of the police investigation. 

Metropolitan police anti-corruption officers uncovered evidence which compellingly demonstrated that there had been a corrupt relationship between the officers investigating the Gohil/Ibori case, in particular, DC John McDonald – the officer who headed the Ibori/Gohil investigation and RISC Management Ltd, a private investigations company. 

Evidence now shows, this corrupt relationship involved the passing of information about the police investigation to RISC in return for cash payments but more critically for Bhadresh Gohil, it was in fact RISC, that was from the very beginning unlawfully passing confidential information about his case to police. 

Uncovered and suppressed documents further show: – 

·      Internal police memorandums reveal sensitive defence privileged material being passed back to the police several years before anyone was charged;

·      £5,000 cash being paid to DC McDonald and at least 19 unexplained cash deposits into his personal bank account;

·      Numerous telephone call between RISC operatives and police officers, many at crucial stages of the Ibori/Gohil investigation;

·      Substantial cash withdrawals by RISC from a Gibraltar based money broker to pay numerous confidential sources for information, including DC McDonald. 

Despite initial denials, it emerged Knuckey was the ex-boss of DC McDonald – the lead investigator in the Ibori/Gohil case but also Knuckey also attended McDonald’s son’s christening in Italy. 

The cover-up and continuing serious prosecutorial misconduct 

Bhadresh Gohil, as a “whistle-blower” alerted the authorities of the corrupt relationship of Ibori case officers and RISC.  Instead of properly investigating these exceptionally serious issues, it was Gohil who was then targeted and maliciously prosecuted by Wass QC to cover up the misconduct of the Ibori police investigators. 

The trial sensationally collapsed in January 2016 after Wass/Shutzer-Weissman were forced to disclose documents that corroborated Gohil’s claims and which confirmed that they, actually knew about the Police misconduct several years earlier but to disclose this. 

The matter further unraveled after a recording emerged of an “off the record” briefing, covertly recorded by the police given by the MPS to journalists who were investigating the allegations of police corruption within the case.  This disclosure totally unravelled the case and exposed the MPS/Wass QC conspiracy to undermine Gohil’s evidence of the corruption. It was during the briefing, DCI Neligan, leading the anti-corruption investigation admitted that officers had, for at least seven months, failed to even check the authenticity of documents which Gohil had provided showing the police corruption. 

When asked by the BBC journalist Mark Easton to explain this, DCI Neligan stated that this was because, if evidence of corruption was uncovered, this would “scupper” the police’s “multi-million pound” investigation into James Ibori. 

Prosecutors appear to have deliberately withheld this and other substantial evidence from both the defence and the courts. It was at the Court of Appeal where remarkably Sasha Wass QC repeatedly advised three senior Judges that “We have given assurances again and again and again that the disclosure process has been undertaken.” and in doing so she deliberately mislead one of the highest courts in the Country. 

After the collapse of the 2016 trial both Sasha Wass QC and Esther Shutzer-Weissman, who for 7 years conducted the Ibori and linked trials were finally removed from all the cases. It is believed they were sacked on the directions of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Appeal 

In the words of the appellants spokesman, “the Appeal sets out the extremity of the bad faith in this case. It is beyond any doubt that the British Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police Service have acted in a manner that is not consistent with the high standards of the British Judicial System, recognised worldwide as fair and transparent. This is case in which, UK Prosecutors lied and misled at every level to ensure the truth of their corrupt practices did not surface”.

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